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An Aquarium

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  72 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
From “Abalone” to “Zooxanthellae,” Jeffrey Yang’s debut poetry collection is full of the exhilarating colors and ominous forms of aquatic life. But deeper under the surface are his observations on war, environmental degradation, language, and history, as a father—troubled by violence and human mismanagement of the world—offers advice to a newborn son.
Paperback, 63 pages
Published October 28th 2008 by Graywolf Press
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Karlo Mikhail
Jan 31, 2014 Karlo Mikhail rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
A mixed bag where poems that are plainly pointless and banal, senseless poems that are infected by a post-structuralist inspired incomprehensibility, and poems that are memorably playful, politically-charged, and interesting inhabit one fascinating collection.

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Jul 24, 2016 Steven rated it really liked it
Everything we touch
ends up in the ocean so
if you want to feel people go
for a swim
Ted Burke
Sep 19, 2011 Ted Burke rated it it was amazing
The book's conceit, an appealing one , is to write a series of poems on the fish and other ocean creatures one would come across in an aquarium, in alphabetical order. It's a sort of involute indexing of whims and amusements that would soon get ragged with repetition in heavier hands, but Yang's touch is light , and varies his approach , creature to creature, and what his musings land on, of course, are continued inquiry into how we know the world.

We mirror, we model, we mimic, we claim credit
May 12, 2012 Nicola rated it really liked it
With the creatures in an aquarium, Yang combines alphabet with science, war, metaphor, religion, philosophy, translation, politics, and colors; he spins the fabulous into the realistic, the hilarious into the horrible, and the scientific becomes emotional. Like a scholar with nitrogen narcosis, like the son of a chemist and mystic, he culls materials from diverse spheres then places them in the tank.

When I enter a Yang poem, I have no idea how I might exit. In “Octopus,” he starts with a belief
May 26, 2009 AC rated it really liked it
An amazing collection of short, but excellent poems--mostly following a theme of fish in an aquarium. The deviations from that theme are enjoyable for the most part. But it's the connections between and reflections on fish (or their nature) and some aspect (our habits, the realities we've created in the world) of humanity that are great and often stunning. The Seahorse poem being one of the best examples--the line about protective covering is tremendous. The only thing preventing this book from ...more
Lynne Fort
Oct 21, 2015 Lynne Fort rated it really liked it
As a novice in the art of poetry, I feel unqualified to review this, but I'll do it for the other novices out there. Some of these poems were beautifully constructed and blew my mind; all were meticulously crafted; some, I admit, were over my head. However, I would say that this book is worth checking out, because the poems that you like will be worth whichever ones you decide you don't. And they will all make you think.
Oct 27, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Jeffrey Yang's An Aquarium is an acquired amalgam of sweet and sour tastes of academic-scholar-seared seafood with allusive seaweed stirred in a strange alphabet soup. Such starfish stillness writing style wise. Being attuned to wisdom and world literatures, these prose poems perform passages, politics, and proverbs from past to present. Bearing witness to planetary presences.
Apr 04, 2016 secondwomn rated it really liked it
Recommended to secondwomn by: sam cha
Shelves: borrowed, poetry, 2016
3.5 & i wavered a lot on whether to round up or down. some seriously amazing, hilarious, musical, philosophical poems. some the just fell totally flat for me. but the sum is greater than the parts, and this is definitely worth rereading.
Nov 02, 2015 Christopher rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Nice collection, small poems doing a bit of work.
"One feels a sainte-terrer walking
the starfish shore. The soul
delighteth in decussate symmetry
dwells quincuncially. WIthout a word
prayer elevates the heart. Star-
fish have neither brain nor heart.
Perhaps they are pure intellect of
soul pure coincidence pure
feeling clinging to the rocks of Paradise.
Far from living water the soul desiccates."
Dec 10, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This is such a smart, inventive, entertaining collection of poems into which one can get lost, surface again, & then dive in for more.
May 21, 2009 Menser rated it it was amazing
sweet, funny, deep, multilingual, punctuated punchy anarcho-politics, channels Han Shan: luminous like wet grass on a hi altitude cliff.
Nov 27, 2012 Sora rated it it was amazing
I sank my fishy fangs into this thing, and like a good girl I had Google in my lap to help me on.
Oct 22, 2011 Paul added it
Review at asianamlitfans.
Jan 02, 2009 Kristin rated it it was amazing
hooray for jeffrey!
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Jeffrey Yang is a poet, translator, and editor at New Directions Publishing Corp. He translated the Qian Jia Shi under the title Rhythm 226, and his poetry has appeared in the Nation, the Paris Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Beacon, New York."
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